Mozart. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Mozart, the child prodigy and musical genius.

Mozart’s comic operas and Magic Flute.

If you’re a musician, you’ve probably heard a lot about Mozart.

But who was he exactly, and should we still care about his work?

I’m glad you asked.

In this series, we’re discovering the stories of the best composers in Western music history and why their work matters to us today.

This is Wolfgang’s story.

Who

Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart. He was known to history as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

That is a lot of names, so we usually just call him Mozart.

What

One of the most talented and most famous composers who ever lived.

Mozart showed tremendous skill in every genre, but he was especially known for his operas, concertos, and symphonies.

When

January 27, 1756 – December 5, 1791.

Mozart lived during the late Classical period and was a contemporary of Joseph Haydn, C.P.E Bach, Carl Stamitz, Josepha Barbara Auernhammer, Maria Theresia von Paradis, and Ludwig van Beethoven.

Where

Austria.

Born in Salzburg, Wolfgang went on several tours across Europe with his father and sister.

He eventually settled in Vienna, where he lived until his death.

Why It Matters

To begin with, Mozart was a genius composer from childhood.

He wrote his first piece before he was six, his first mass when he was twelve, and his first opera at age fourteen.

Mozart’s music was dramatic, bold, emotionally expressive, and complex.

He was a master of melody. Few composers have been able to construct melodies as simple yet unique and beautiful like Mozart could.

He was known for being able to mix many styles from various time periods and countries to make a creative piece.

Joseph Haydn once told Wolfgang’s father, Leopold, that his son was the best composer he’d ever known.

He heavily influenced Beethoven and many other composers that came after him.

Other Interesting Facts

Wolfgang was not the only composer in the Mozart family. His sister, Maria Anna, was a gifted musician and composer in her own right, and so was his father Leopold.

As a child, he was very afraid of trumpets. Apparently loud instruments were not his “forte” (sorry, I had to).

He had a rather odd sense of humor, which sometimes got him into trouble.

He also got into trouble for writing the score for Gregorio Allegri’s Miserere after hearing it at the Vatican. The music was not supposed to ever be written down; it was forbidden. But Mozart was so skilled that he was able to copy the entire piece from memory.

Mozart and his wife, Constanze, had six children. Sadly, four of them died as babies.

He was a Freemason.

Wolfgang made a substantial income from his compositions. Unfortunately, he was not good at managing money, so he often ended up in financial trouble.

He died before his last work, a Requiem in D minor, was completed. It was finished by his student Franz Xaver Sussmayr.

His death at age thirty-five was never given an official cause. Scholars have speculated that he may have died from rheumatic fever, kidney problems, or a strep infection.

After Mozart died, a rumor that he was poisoned by fellow composer Antonio Salieri began to circulate. But the rumor was unfounded, and historians have never taken it seriously.

This is a recording of Mozart’s piano sonata in C major, perhaps his best-known piece.

And that is the story of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. What do you think of him?

Other Composers Featured in This Series:

Antonio Vivaldi, J.S. Bach, George F. Handel, Joseph Haydn, Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel, Clara Schumann, Erik Satie, Scott Joplin, Lili Boulanger, Dmitri Shostakovich

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